Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, June 17, 2001

Lakers are a dynasty in making

By Mike Lopresti
Gannett News Service

PHILADELPHIA — When it was over Friday night, they shared a word on the court before going their separate ways to summer, two seven-foot heavyweights whose fight had raged for 10 days in the NBA Finals.

"You made me sweat," Shaquille O'Neal said to Dikembe Mutombo.

High praise, indeed. For no one could hope to do more with O'Neal or his team right now.

Not a prayer. The past weeks were for validation. A testament to the invulnerability of the Los Angeles Lakers. A public display of how utterly unstoppable their center has become.

Did someone here mention the word dynasty?

Not yet. A dynasty is hardly certifiable in only two years, be it Ming, Hapsburg or the Lakers.

"We have to take our time," Kobe Bryant said. "See what happens."

But it gives them something left to do.

"I'm happy," Shaq announced Friday. "I'm also greedy. And I'm not done."

Meanwhile, the rest of the league can ponder the terrifying fact that there are still muscles O'Neal can strengthen, still moves he can learn.

Bryant is 22. O'Neal is 29. So how many Junes may end just like this one?

"With Kobe and Shaq at the age they are," Horace Grant said, "I give it eight, nine more times."

Presumably, he was only kidding.

But it is a foreboding future for any NBA wannabes, who must wait for Laker implosion, or learn to like second place.

Come next regular season, when the Lakers allow their egos more free time, everyone else will be looking for signs of domestic unrest in the Staples Center, like the tabloids monitor Hollywood marriages. Since the only team that can depose the Lakers is the Lakers.

"It's a thing of the past," Bryant said of the Shaq-Kobe Wars. "But next year, when people see us talking aggressively, it's not going to be a thing of the past. Somebody is going to blow it out of proportion, and it starts all over again until we win. It's a cycle.

"We're going to do our best to keep a community. Hopefully we won't have to go through what we went through this year. I don't think we will."

And is it possible Los Angeles could get even . . . better?

O'Neal thinks so. He is older, wiser, with still room to grow.

"Being a former juvenile delinquent, the secret is if you don't want to get yelled out, do the right thing," he said. "I get tired of getting yelled at by my father. I get tired of getting yelled out by Phil Jackson. I get tired of getting yelled at by Mr. (Jerry) West.

"I just have to be consistent in what I do."

So said the man who scored 44, 28, 30, 34 and 29 points in the NBA Finals.

Champions can get fat, but the Lakers have landmarks ahead, to keep their attention.

Jackson has Red Auerbach's nine coaching titles to catch. Bryant has a three-peat to pursue. He seems to want to be so much like Michael Jordan, he'll need one of those.

O'Neal is already on the A list of all-time big men. The coming years will decide how high.

"I don't really sit down and think about my legacy," he said. "I promised I wouldn't do that to myself until it's all said and done."

In an age when the NBA has tried to legislate parity by a salary cap, one T-Rex rules the land, with no end in sight.

"Some teams seem to defy gravity," commissioner David Stern said the other day. "Like the Lakers."

Not a dynasty yet. But no reason they can't be.